Just One Last Mango
by Chaitanya Murali
“Do you want one?” Meghna asked between bites. She was sitting in the upper branches of Balu maama’s mango tree, with half a dozen golden fruits bundled in her podavai and another one in her mouth.
I shook my head, keeping an eye out for maama, and an ear out for his dogs. If he caught us, then that was another day of helping him. Another day of hearing him lecture us about how those mangoes were for selling, not eating. Another day of unpaid labour. Another loss for us. The mangoes I could eat once we were home. For now, I just wanted Meghna to get down so we could go. But my sister, older by a year and therefore infinitely more wise, swayed on the branch, kicking her legs and laughing — giddy from the flavour.
Stolen mangoes always did taste sweeter.
“He’s going to come out soon!” My words were a hissed whisper.
“You better start running, then,” Meghna said, without the slightest urgency to accompany it. If anything, she seemed about ready to fall asleep on the branch, splaying herself across it like a basking cat.
“Meghna! What if someone sees you?”
“Their problem, no? It’s fine, Karthik. No one comes here at this time, anyway. And besides, he never eats them.”
I could hear the dogs stirring now and my bones screamed in the panicked remembrance of a thousand crushing dog hugs. Balu maama’s dogs weren’t the biting kind. They were the aggressively friendly kind, which was somehow worse. They threw themselves at us with abandon, looking only to knock us down and pin us long enough to lick our faces raw.
“They’re coming, toss the mangoes to me!” I said, opening thatha’s veshti that I’d snuck into his room to take while he snored on his wicker cot, a Dhina Thandhi magazine spilled open over his chest. Four fruits dropped, golden splashes in billowing cotton. Gilded and shining in the morning sun.
These weren’t normal mangoes. (Continue Reading…)